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The Scale Length of a Strat Neck
The correct scale length of the Strat Neck is crucial information that avid guitar builders should be aware of when building, repairing, and modifying Fender Stratocaster electric guitars at home.
The scale length of a guitar refers to the length of its neck. The importance of this is rarely considered unless one is attempting to build or repair an instrument, although guitarists react instinctively to scale length.
Essentially, a longer scale length means there are larger spaces between the frets. These distances are carefully determined through the use of mathematical logarithms when engineers design musical instruments. The longer the string length, the “fatter” the notes produced by the instrument, according to the laws of physics (you may not have realized the importance of math and physics in creating of a musical instrument). This is why a bass, which has a very long neck scale length, has a completely different tone than a mandolin.
Choosing the wrong Strat neck can affect playability
The length of a guitar’s neck affects a few very important aspects of its playing. Those guitars with shorter scale lengths are generally easier to play for players who have smaller hands or shorter fingers, because the frets are closer together. They also aid in string bending and vibrato. The neck of the Fender Strat has a relatively long pitch. It’s 0.75 inches taller than its closest electric guitar rival in terms of popularity, which goes without saying is the Gibson Les Paul. The latter’s scale length is 24.75 inches, while the Fender’s is 25.5 inches.
So why would anyone choose to play Fender Strat or guitars with similar necks? For one thing, shorter guitar necks have a harder time handling heavier strings; these strings can more easily warp the neck or go out of tune.
Some guitarists prefer heavier strings because they stay in tune more easily and have a fatter sound, while being less prone to breakage. But another thing is that longer guitar necks allow for crisper and cleaner guitar sound. This is why anyone with the most basic musical knowledge can easily tell the sound of a Les Paul from that of a Stratocaster just by listening. Of course, there are other things that affect the sound of a guitar, but since sound is very important to the electric guitar player, every factor that could affect it should be considered whether you are repairing or building a guitar yourself.
A good scale length is also important because the differences between different guitar necks cannot be too great, otherwise a guitarist using a particular guitar will not be able to tune his guitar to the same pitches as another guitarist. The math involved in guitar scaling takes this into account to ensure that different guitar scale lengths will allow their players to accurately tune their instruments to standard concert pitch.
So if you’re repairing or trying to build a Fender Strat yourself, be sure to get or build a 25.5″ Strat neck and not just “any old neck” for your instrument.
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